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Heidi Bender, PhD

Cornell University
Director of Clinical Neuropsychology
Neurological Surgery



Academic Member

What I would like to offer as a collaborator…

As a Spanish-speaking neuropsychologist, my research has been informed by clinical dilemmas that were not fully explained by extant literature. Until recently, neuropsychology research generalized findings collected in ‘majority’ populations to under-represented groups, minimizing the role of bilingualism and culture. However, a “one-size-fits-all approach” is neither ethical nor appropriate, and can result in incorrect data interpretation and related medical error. Owing to the increased prevalence of epilepsy in Latinx patients, I developed a programmatic line of research specifically evaluating the diagnostic utility of neuropsychological tests and techniques used to assess Spanish-speaking surgical candidates.

What I am looking for from a collaborator…

Since my recent appointment at Weill Cornell Medical Center, I have continued working with a diverse patient base across the lifespan, evaluating neurosurgical candidates in their native Spanish and also in Russian. Doing so has provided their neurosurgical care teams with valuable insights regarding the patients’ treatment planning and prognostication. Moreover, I have become an integral member of the neurosurgical team, conducting functional language mappings using innovative, cutting-edge, empirically-derived testing paradigms in patients undergoing the resection of cavernous malformations and brain tumors. Having this expertise – coupled with an in-depth understanding of the bilingual brain – as several of these intra-operative language mapping candidates were non-native English-speaking and non-U.S.-born – has thoughtfully and comprehensively served these patients unique neuropsychological needs.

I look forward to collaborations with other departments where cognitive and behavioral assessment of surgical candidacy is standard of care both pre- and post-operatively (i.e., cardiac, transplant. To this end, I aim to collaborate with other like-minded providers in order to refine evaluative services aimed at improving outcomes in historically under-served and under-represented groups.